What makes agriculture especially deserving of an active government safety net? What is different about agricultural production? Are we concerned about a safe and reliable food supply or about farmers' incomes and returns to assets? Those who make farm policy base their arguments on all of these points: the diffuse nature of agricultural production, the inherent production risk in agriculture, the need for a safe and reliable food supply, shortcomings in farm income, and low returns to assets in agriculture. This paper addresses these points and, in so doing, rules out some of these concerns as legitimate bases for current agricultural policies. By focusing on those that are genuine, U.S. farm policy could spend limited resources in areas where the most good could be done, thus benefiting both farmers and taxpayers.


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